Monday, April 1, 2013

Google Trends-ing the land use lexicon

I was intrigued by a story on the radio recently about how Google could accurately predict flu outbreaks in a locale weeks before the Center for Disease Control simply by the regional use of flu-related search terms in the search engine.  It made me wonder what Google might be able to tell us about my own personal passions in and around land use. 

I started noodling around with Google Trends, which shows the variability of a search term over time with the most searches labeled as 100.  Here are some results that I think will fascinate land use folks.  Foremost, here is the graphic that shows the relative number of times people searched for the term "land use":



Now, to all of us writing and reading a "land use" blog, the relative shrinking of land use searches does not bode well.  I see at least two important potential lessons, both of which are unproven hunches.  The first is a guess that searches for all things "land use" peaked around 2005 - 2006 because of the Kelo v. City of New London case, which brought land use planning and land use law into the media spotlight.  Second, I would guess that there are other terms out there that really are about land use but go by other names.  Here is a graphic that shows the Google search trends for several other big terms in the land use lexicon:


My question to the folks out there is... what are the land use terms that are on the rise?  What are the terms in our field that are skyrocketing in Google searches?  And moreover, what does that tell us about land use planning, land use law, and the public perception of the legal structures that frame the built envrionment? If anyone decides to spend time Google Trends-ing land use terms and finds one that is peaking now, please let me know and I'll add it to the blog!

Stephen R. Miller

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